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Designing the Future with Applied Sci-Fi

Event Details

The tools of sci-fi narrative are increasingly being used in the field of design to better imagine, experience, and shape possible futures. Whether these emerging design practices are categorized as “design fiction,” “sci-fi prototyping,” “useful fiction,” “experiential futures,” or “world-building,” there is a growing field of futurists and design professionals applying these science-fictional techniques to advise companies, governments, and nonprofits on how to prepare for the opportunities and challenges that the future will bring.

Join Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination and legendary science fiction author Bruce Sterling for a virtual conversation that brings together several leading practitioners to examine this new world of sci-fi-inspired speculative design practice. We’ll dive deep into how the various methods of Applied Sci-Fi are used today and how they can hopefully help us collaboratively design a better tomorrow.

This is the second in a series of online events for the Applied Sci-Fi Project, which seeks to understand the influence of science fiction on technology and the people who build it, and to study the specific ways that sci-fi storytelling can be applied as a tool for innovation and foresight. Video from our first event, “The Sci-Fi Feedback Loop: Mapping Fiction’s Influence on Real World Tech,” is archived here. This project, led by ASU CSI Fellow Kevin Bankston, is possible thanks to generous support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.


Bruce Sterling, @bruces

Bruce Sterling (Schismatrix, The Zenith Angle, Zeitgeist) is an internationally bestselling author, journalist, editor, columnist, and critic. He is perhaps best known for his ten visionary science fiction novels, as a founder of the cyberpunk movement, and as the editor of the quintessential cyberpunk anthology Mirrorshades. His much-heralded nonfiction includes The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier and The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things.

Julian Bleecker, @darthjulian

Julian Bleecker is the co-founder of Near Future Laboratory and CEO of OMATA. He is a multidisciplinary engineer, product designer, creative technologist, and strategy-oriented futurist. He looks at the world a bit sideways, seeking opportunities to create digital products that are unanticipated, unexpected, and beautiful alternatives to the status quo.

Anab Jain, @anabjain

Anab Jain is a filmmaker, designer, and futurist. She is co-founder of Superflux, a pioneering speculative design and experiential futures studio, working for clients and commissioners such as V&A, Google, Red Cross, UNDP, IKEA, and Deepmind. She has delivered keynotes at TED, Skoll, House of Lords and House of Commons UK, and shown work at MoMA New York, V&A London, National Museum of China, and Museum of the Future Dubai. She serves as professor for design investigations at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna.

Alex McDowell, @worldbldg

Alex McDowell is a narrative designer. He served as a production designer for more than 30 years of feature films by David Fincher, Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg, and others, and he is the originator of world building as a disruptive design system. He is now creative director at Experimental Design Studio, designing storytelling for change in media, education, industry, and institutions. He is a professor at USC Media Arts + Practice, and director of the World Building Media Lab and Institute.

Radha Mistry, @radha_mistry

Radha Mistry has a background in architecture, narrative environments, and strategic foresight. She leads the Americas Region Foresight business at Arup, teaches speculative design at the MFA Transdisciplinary Design program at The New School (Parsons), and strategic foresight at the Design MBA program at the California College of the Arts. She spends most of her time exploring the impact of emerging signals of change and how they’ll change the way we design and make things in the future. Her foresight career also includes time at organizations such as Autodesk and Steelcase.


Brian David Johnson, @BDJFuturist

Brian David Johnson has made the future his business. From 2009 to 2016, he was Intel Corporation’s first-ever futurist. Currently, he is a professor at Arizona State University’s Global Futures Laboratory and School for the Future of Innovation in Society. He also works in a private practice with a broad range of groups, including governments, militaries, corporations, nonprofits, and start-ups, to help them envision their future. He holds more than 40 patents and is the bestselling author of books of science fiction and fact (Threatcasting, The Future You, WaR: Wizards and Robots, and 21st Century Robot).